As we announced last week, our word of the month for May is surrender, chosen by Candace Oliver. Courtney and I have been trading off posts every Wednesday to talk about each of the quotes that are chosen to accompany a word, and this week Courtney takes it away with a vulnerable post about dealing with anxiety and seeking help when we need it.
Surrender is a difficult word for me to swallow.
In Candace’s post last week about why she chose this word, she said, “As women, we tend to want to control.” That statement describes me perfectly. So while I know I have this tendency, and I know why I have this tendency, I don’t have much power to stop it.
My friend Rebekah wrote a wonderful post a couple weeks ago about the fear that comes from lack of control. Her words blew me away because they were exactly what I needed to hear. They put my own fears into perspective. This line in particular really resonated with me, “We have to roll with punches and we have to guard our words and we may need to drink at night or take up a spin class to deal with that anxiety of ALL THE UNKNOWN and HOW WE CAN FAIL…”
Do you have these feelings? I can’t be the only one who thinks about all the things that could go wrong. All the horribleness that can come crashing down on a life. I seriously roll through dozens of scenarios every minute of the day. The darkest ones involve a stranger breaking into my home and doing awful things to me, or worse, to me and my sister. For about a year, I haven’t been able to sleep without my bedroom door closed tightly and locked. Other dark imaginings, not quite as terrifying, involve my writing dreams and how I may never achieve them. Or they involve me getting so caught up in my own life that I lose my strongest, most cherished relationships. While driving around, I’m constantly picturing potential crash scenarios and the best way to deal with them if they happen.
These kinds of thoughts have always been there, but usually I have them and then let them go. There’s no lingering effect, no tinge of worry left in my stomach. They don’t keep me up at night. Lately though, the fears have been getting to me. I’m not exactly sure why. I just know that they’re escalating. No matter how many breathing exercises I do, no matter how much I work out to wash them clean from my head, no matter how much I distract myself with writing or with music, the moment I stop, the anxieties are there. Surrendering, letting them go, doesn’t seem to be an option right now.
Luckily, I was listening to an episode of “FIRST DRAFT with Sarah Enni” while on a walk the other day (a podcast about how writers get their starts and about the writing life in general). Her interview guest was Veronica Roth, author of the NYT best-selling Divergent series. In it, Roth discussed her immense anxiety while writing the second novel in the series. At the time, she was living abroad and the anxiety prevented her from leaving the house. She just couldn’t deal with the outside world. As soon as she got back to the States, she booked an appointment with a therapist. In the interview, Roth says, “I’d never acknowledged it as an anxiety disorder. I was just like, ‘Oh, sometimes I need to go to therapy.’ In my family, my mom would be like, ‘It seems like you’re struggling. Do you want to go see someone?’ It was like going to a doctor. I mean, it is going to a fucking doctor.” She laughed after this and apologized for the cursing (never apologize, V-Roth. NEVER APOLOGIZE.) But when she said that last sentence, a light just went off in my head.
I thought, “Oh! I should try going to a therapist.” This had never, not once, occurred to me over the past year of my growing anxiety. And I know it’s because deep down, I’ve been convinced that seeing a therapist means I’m weak. I can’t handle real life. I’m maybe even crazy. But those thoughts and beliefs are just not true. The truth is, I don’t like feeling so bogged down by stress and anxiety, and it’s 100 percent okay to seek professional help in dealing with these emotions. Taking it back to Candace’s quote for this week, if I want to get healthy, I will need to change my ideas about myself and about therapy. Hopefully, this will result in some hard-gained wisdom and a less-anxiety-filled Courtney.
I think there are perhaps a lot of people out there like me who haven’t considered going to therapy because of preconceived notions about it. Or just because our anxious minds can’t help but to picture all the ways it might be awful. In Rebekah’s post, she says sometimes we have to admit to ourselves and to the world that we need help. So here I am, admitting I need help and taking steps to get it.
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